We had a run of “If You Like Posts” by Dear Author readers. It is a great series and one day, reader Laura emailed me and asked if we had done one for Redemption stories. We had not. I said to her that she should write one for us and she did. Back in December. So I apologize to Laura for waiting for so long to post this. I love the redemption story and I am so grateful that Laura wrote up this post as a launching pad for a great trope.
The idea of making a big mistake or series of mistakes and finding happiness and fulfillment, despite the mistakes, is an alluring idea. We've all done things we regret or made errors that were seemingly unfixable, but I think everyone likes the idea that it is possible to come full circle, to make things right.
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
- Barely a Lady by Eileen Dreyer
- Ain't She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Examples from favorite books:
In Persuasion, one of my favorite examples of this type of novel, Anne Elliot is persuaded to make the logical decision not to marry the penniless (at the time) Fredrick Wentworth. Finding each other years later, Anne realizes her feelings for Fredrick have not changed, but he doesn't want to be rejected by Anne again. In the end, they find their way back to each other despite the obstacles raised by Anne's family and friends.
In Barely a Lady, Jack has divorced Olivia. Being divorced puts Grace in disgrace, unable to earn a living when employers learn about her past. Olivia is reunited with Jack after they haven't seen each other for several years. Jack is experiencing amnesia and believes he's still married to Olivia. Jack's recovery from the amnesia allows him to process the falsehoods that led him to divorce Olivia. Jack and Olivia make painful steps to rebuild their relationship to make their happy ending.
In Ain't She Sweet, Sugar Beth Carey is a popular, wealthy, and hellish teenager, tormenting most of her small southern hometown. She wields enough influence to get her high school English teacher, Colin Byrne, wrongfully fired for sexual harassment. After more than a decade away from home, Sugar Beth returns a changed woman. Her past victims aren't much interested in her beyond revenge. Sugar Beth pays her dues, to some degree, and finds her happily ever after with Colin.
Settings: It doesn't really matter where or when the story happens, the characters and their conflict resolution are what makes the story.
Heroine/Hero Type: Strong, only strong heroines and heroes can make the painful steps necessary come back from whatever mess they've made of their lives.
Plot (action-oriented / character-driven): Character-driven
Writing style (simple v. ornate): Simple
Dialogue (lots/little/balanced): Balanced, most of these stories really need dialogue between the characters to work through problems. However, internal dialogue is also hugely important to understanding the characters.
Humor (Yes/No-serious/some): Humor can be effective depending on the story, but isn't necessary in all cases.
Emotional Angst (high/medium/low): Variable, sometimes an angsty read hits the spot.
Conflict (externally driven/internally driven/both): Both, there has to be conflict between the hero and heroine along with internal conflict to make the story interesting. Often, the hero and heroine have their own issues that need to be worked through before they can repair their relationship.
Heat level: (kisses/warm/hot/scorching): Variable, having copious amounts of super-heated sex does not magically cure a diseased relationship. On the other hand, the physical aspect of a relationship can't be ignored completely or the story is not true to the characters. I think everyone has read a book or two where one of the characters tries to sex the other back in line with what they want. That would be an example of faulty conflict resolution.
What are some of your favorite redemption stories?